Let me begin by saying how disappointed I am in a select few people in this industry who have chosen to disregard their moral compass in hopes of a little fame and fortune. You disgust me, and by the end of this piece you will likely know who you are. First…let’s set some ground rules. Here is the definition of “fraud” for a refresher:
- Wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain.
- A person or thing intended to deceive others, typically by unjustifiably claiming or being credited with accomplishments or qualities.
Synonyms: cheat – deceit – deception – swindle – humbug – fake
So we are clear…a fraud is a deceptive act meant to sucker people out of their money, or to create gain for one’s self by screwing over someone else, usually by lying, or playing on their emotions. People who commit fraud on other good people are the lowest scum of the earth, really…
Now let us look at the current cannabis landscape, an environment ripe for fraudulent activity. The cannabis industry is still illegal, so what you have is an environment where any huckster can wander in, make grandiose claims, and no one is going to really call bullshit because of the quasi-legal landscape. Add to this that the major hook for marijuana is “medical” these days, and what you get is a scene reminiscent of the 1800’s and the infamous Snake Oil Salesmen.
There is no shortage of losers who claim to have the cure for any and all afflictions inside of their weed product. Whether it is this miracle oil, or that incredible tincture, or this other amazing salve, this particular weed medicine is a miracle that can shrink any tumor and can heal any wound….and you should buy it. You should also invest your life savings into the company because this “next big thing” is too big to fail.
If one more asshole company buys some defunct company’s stock pink sheets, changes the name to something with “cannabis” or “marijuana” in it, and does absurd press releases to try and pump up these stocks to make money off people’s desire to believe that they have a miracle opportunity that is going to make them rich, I am gonna start kicking people in the nuts. This is called “affinity fraud.”
Affinity fraud includes investment frauds that prey upon members of identifiable groups, such as religious or ethnic communities, language minorities, the elderly, or professional groups. The fraudsters who promote affinity scams frequently are – or pretend to be – members of the group. They often enlist respected community or religious leaders from within the group to spread the word about the scheme, by convincing those people that a fraudulent investment is legitimate and worthwhile. Many times, those leaders become unwitting victims of the fraudster’s ruse.
Does this sound familiar? Have you witnessed this supposed “cannabis expert” trolling around trying to get you to believe in this great new company and awesome opportunity? Have you seen them use touching stories of ill people, and claims of healing the sick and dying, to sell their stocks and their products? Are we all really stupid enough to fall for this bullshit ruse? Or have we just become willing to sell out our morals for our desire to be accepted, and hope that the Snake oil Salesmen are actually legit?
In your gut, you know they are not. We all do. Do not get me twisted either. WEED IS GREAT MEDICINE. There are many valid therapeutic uses of cannabis, and there are certainly some conditions where cannabis, and certain cannabinoids, excel in healing and therapeutic use. Nobody is debating that. What is suspect are the many ill-referenced definitive claims of “curing cancer” and “cannabis miracles.”
This desire to provide false hope based on very few anecdotal cases, and more often coincidences, is disingenuous and makes us all look bad. When these claims move from the desire to create an unshakable acceptance for weed in society to the desire to create income and/or notoriety for a person or company, that is called fraud. It is clear that we have A LOT of people who are willing to sell out their values to try and make a buck off the weed game. Good for them. Karma is a bitch, and always catches up to people. But not before they have come between you and your hard earned money. So here are some tips on spotting fraudsters from a mile away.
CHARACTERISTICS OF A FRAUDSTER:
- Way too friendly: You know the type. They go out of their way to convince you what a nice person they are and how interested they are in you and your life.
- Selling something: A good fraudster always has a gimmick to present. They want you to know about this great product, or business opportunity. They will usually not get to this until after they have established that you are a sucker for their “way too friendly” set up.
- Oozing with fakeness: Does your conversation seem plastic? Rehearsed? Pointed and pushy in a certain direction? Yup.
- Every communication is a commercial: A good fraudster will invade your communication network, either by email, social media, or other means and will barrage you with message after message about their great opportunity and awesome ideas. Even a casual conversation will point back to their ruse, if done right. Most are not capable of a casual conversation because they know they have to always be selling, selling selling, if they are to pull off the fraud successfully.
- The old heartstrings tug: Fraudster prey on people’s emotions, and will generally have a “feel good” story to support their fraud. It is a basic distraction, and is used to provide protection. It goes like this…”We are associated with this very sad and touching story. If you say anything bad about us then you must also hate this very sad and touching story.”
- Shameless plugs in weird places: Like I said… a fraudster is always selling, and will continue to plug their fraud at the most odd and out of place times. They are programmed to interject their mission into any and every situation, even if it is just plain weird.
- If it is too good to be true: Never let your common sense be ignored. If something seems like it is too good to be true, it is. Don’t believe the hype. Go with your instinct and do your homework before you blindly follow a fraudster off of the cliff.
Those are some general things you can do to protect yourself in this unethical and creepy environment. It is natural that this type of behavior will exist in any industry. In this industry, it is even easier, as there are so many unanswered questions and a long history of social and political forces driving the conversation. There will always be some asshole to part you from your money if you let them, and in cannabis there are very little checks and balances in place to help understand what is a good opportunity, and what is simply fraud.
You are the best judge of character you know. Do not let your love for weed be used against you and do not let some predatory fraudster convince you to invest in bad business, or become a tool for them to deliver their deceitful message. Weed will be legal, and there will be good investment opportunities as that develops. Most of what we see now is not that opportunity, but a bunch of wannabe business moguls throwing around weak ideas in fancy packaging to set up a mirage of professionalism that is just not there. Be aware of those who claim to have answers to a test that has not been written yet. Do not be a victim of bullshit….